The grandparent of the Ring doorbell

This is from the Book of Genesis, so you know it’s true:

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”

Meanwhile, in the God-fearing town of Long Beach, that was fine until 1909, when Southern California Edison Co. determined that a little darkness goes a long way and maybe it would be a good idea for residents of the city to blur the line between light and darkness by installing the modern contraption of porch lights and leaving them on all night.

A campaign spurred by Edison in the autumn of 1909 offered Long Beach residents the opportunity to have crews come out to wire homes for porch lights that could illuminate porches and front yards all night at the cost of 60 cents a month.

The local press played along, perhaps spurred by an advertising campaign by Edison. A story in the Oct. 20, 1909, Daily Telegram, noted — and perhaps it was true in 1909, I don’t recall — “Long Beach is nothing if not progressive. Her citizens are ever ready to spend their money for anything demonstrated to be of actual worth and utility.”

In this case, the electric porch light, the modern “beautifier and protector” that Edison crews were stringing up in neighborhoods all over the city in order to “make the thoroughfares appear in gala attire.”

But most importantly was the safety issue. No burglar or voyeur would dare to creep within the halos of light radiating from homes with porch lights as ever-vigilant sentries 

The security aspect was not missed by a poet whose ode to the porch light was published in the Pasadena News, and it’s doggerel at best, including the depiction of a would-be evildoer’s change of mind when he comes upon an illuminated yard and “slinks away in dread/lest someone in that lighted house shall pump him full of lead.”

Porch lights took off at a brisk pace as Southern California Edison became almost immediately swamped with requests for the things that eventually became even more ubiquitous than today’s new guard against bad guys, the Ring doorbell, video cameras and motion-activated floodlights that startle some of us on our evening walks with our dogs, which provide more than enough security against criminals as well as Amazon deliverers, UPS drivers and postal workers.

Purple daze

Walking the dogs in safe, daylight hours these days is awarded, if that’s the correct term, with a dazzling stroll along a stretch of Knoxville Avenue and Wardlow Road where the jacarandas are hitting their annual floral stride, raining their sticky purple flowers on sidewalks, streets, lawns and cars.

You probably don’t want a jacaranda in your yard, but if you’re lucky, like me, you live on the next block over and can enjoy the lavender spectacle from your front porch or living room.

Strolling down the street with the large trees forming a colorful canopy while the petals gently waft down is transcendent, even though the petals sticking to my shoes end up adding about three inches to my height by the time I reach the end of the block.

What I’m reading now

Author Alice Munro.

I have a whole roster of beloved short-story writers: Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, J.D. Salinger, Ann Beattie, George Saunders and Flannery O’Connor are just a few, but my desert island pick would be Alice Munro, who died May 13 at her home in Port Hope, Canada at the age of 92.

I hadn’t read anything by her in a while, but the news of her death sent me scurrying to my library to dig up “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” from her mid-career in 2001, and “Dear Life,” her last collection, published in 2012, just a bit before the dementia set in that would last for the balance of her life.

I don’t think I’ve read a story by Munro that didn’t leave me dazed and perhaps heartbroken by her calm and elegant phrasing and her profound examinations of life, almost always centering on girls and women in rural Canada.

She is almost invariably termed the master of the short story — she never embarked on a novel, but her stories carry the same weight — and she earned numerous awards, including the Man Booker International in 2009 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013.

What I’m listening to now

My friend Thom recently introduced me to the New Orleans-based band Hurray for the Riff Raff, fronted by singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra, and their music has dominated my playlist for the past couple of weeks.

The band’s latest album, released this year, is “The Past Is Still Alive,” and it’s an apt title for their music, which is influenced to a large degree by early folk, country and blues music that is fully invigorated and made new again by Segarra’s captivating and electrifying vocals. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard but familiar and listenable at the same time. The magazine NoDepression, the bible of americana music, described their music as “something The Band would’ve played on a Victrola while making ‘Music From Big Pink.’” That’s good enough for me.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.